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March 30, 2010

North Sea Halibut

Discovered: A trophy release fishery for Atlantic halibut in Norway's shallow coastal waters

That fish certainly could have been 200 or 300 pounds or more. Big flatfish do seem to be surprisingly abundant in these waters.

Secrest's brief bout gave us our first real taste of how these large Atlantic halibut fight: hard. When it comes to speed and power after hookup, we all agreed that the Atlantic halibut seems a different animal than the Pacific version, proving much tougher. That may be in part because we hooked them in relatively shallow water - typically 25 to 45 feet. But even those we hooked in more than 70 feet fought similarly.

Along with that revelation, the advice Jonasson offered when reeling up a lure also didn't quite jibe with our halibut-fishing experience. "Watch out when you reel up your lures because halibut will follow them to the boat," he said. "Just drop back down quickly if they do."

The next day that happened to me when a halibut surprised me by swimming right to the boat like a northern pike, chasing a Savage gear Sandeel lure. Though it missed the lure and took off, it fell far short of the trophy mark. Not so for another halibut that showed itself to two hard-core halibut pros from Denmark (one of them, in fact, Sören Beck), fishing near us most of that second day in a smaller center-console.

"Peter [Lichtenberg] was reeling up," Beck says. "He felt a slight take and thought it was a cod. As Peter reeled in, the fish showed itself by the boat, and we could see how big it was." The halibut spooked boat-side and bolted away with such explosive power that its big tail sprayed water into the boat's cockpit. "Peter quickly let his jig down about halfway - it was nearly 45 feet deep. He jigged it twice and the halibut grabbed the lure!" and the fight was on. Ultimately, the pair managed to tape the fish and estimate it at about 160 pounds.